CHATHAM CHAT | MACK THORPE

Troop 93’s big 75th anniversary set for Oct. 22

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In 1965, as an only child growing up two miles north of Wrightsville Beach, Mack Thorpe joined some friends to become charter members of Boy Scout Troop 237 Ogden of the Cape Fear Area Council.

“We thrived as Scouts, signing up for every possible outdoor adventure trip,” Thorpe said. “Unlike today’s Scouting, 57 years ago, you couldn’t work on multiple ranks at the same time or merit badges until attaining the rank of first class.”

This week, we speak with Thorpe — the assistant scoutmaster of Pittsboro Troop 93 — who’s been working to plan a community-wide celebration of the troop’s 75th anniversary. It’s set for Saturday, Oct. 22, in Pittsboro; the public is invited. For more information, go to Troop93.classquest.com.

Thorpe and his wife, Pam, own The Rusty Bucket, a small retail store in Apex that sells farm house decor, folk art, candles, antiques and antique reproductions. In July, the couple celebrated the business’s 18 years on Salem Street in Apex. Pam manages The Rusty Bucket, while Thorpe, who retired years ago from corporate life, builds custom farm tables from a workshop at his home in Pittsboro.

What else did your own journey with Scouting involve?

In 1970, I became the troop’s first Eagle Scout and went to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. In 1972, as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster with the same Troop, I would remain active, joining them for weekend camp-outs. By 1976, I was married and living in Greenville, N.C., where I taught school and became Assistant Scoutmaster. Soon after, Scouting changed its program emphasis to address urban youth more than focusing on traditional scouting skills, I lost interested and dropped out, but still embraced the core tenants of Scouting as principles I would live my life by.

But you came back, eventually ... What got you involved in Scouting in Chatham County?

About four years ago, I began hearing about boys who had been abused as a Boy Scout and then the lawsuit was announced. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pulled away from the BSA, which netted about a 20% loss in enrollment. Permission was granted for girls to become part of Boy Scout troops and LGBTQ+ identifying individuals were allowed to be Scouts and leaders.

Stark differences of opinion led to division, and I became discouraged to see Scouting go through such a dark time, especially after the program had made such an impact on me as a youth and young adult. I wondered how I could help, how I might make a difference.

One morning I saw the TV ad about the lawsuit that asked people to report if they had been abused as a scout. Then, as I thumbed through an Eagle Scout magazine I saw the statement: “Once an Eagle…Always and Eagle. Take the challenge and make a difference.”

So, with Pam’s support, I discovered Troop 93 in Pittsboro, which I later learned is a model Scout Troop, and the Scoutmaster invited me to attend their next meeting. That was two years ago, and I’m now an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 93 and a Unit Commissioner for Chatham County Scout Troops and Cub Packs. I was awarded the Eno District of Occoneechee Council 2021 Unit Commissioner of the Year, and in 2023 I will fulfill a life long dream by attending the National Jamboree.

Scouting has certainly changed a lot in 57 years, so I’ve spent a lot of time learning how it works in the 21st century. When they ask, I share stories of how things used to be, and thankfully, many safety standards and other practices have improved. But one thing has not changed, and that is the emphasis on leadership and values to live by. Scouting’s Mission statement, its Oath or Promise and Scout Laws teachings are the same. A Scout will demonstrate these values: character, fitness and citizenship. What wonderful lessons they teach.

Lots has changed in terms of the perceptions of the Boy Scouts of America in the last few years. What’s the status of the BSA now, in your opinion, and how’s the health of scouting in Chatham County?

Scouting in America is at a crossroads. It has many challenges to overcome as there are so many options for a youth and their parents to choose from, the recent negative press, lawsuit and the transition of allowing girls to have a scout troop. But the good news is Scouting has its principles as I have outlined above, strengthening the character, fitness and citizenship of those who join, offering Scouts and their families something that can’t be found in any other option.

As for the health of Scouting in Chatham today, I would say it’s at a low point overcoming all the things I have discussed above, overcoming COVID-19 and misconceptions of what Scouting is and is not. But the good news Chatham County Scouting stands on the edge of an unbelievable future with all the growth that is going on and forecasted for the next 10 years. Scouting stands to benefit from this growth, but it must do its due diligence in putting the values and benefits of Scouting out into the Chatham County community. It will not happen by itself.

Talk to us about the scouts you work with in Troop 93 and scouts in Chatham County. Why do youngsters get involved, and what do they learn and gain from the scouting experience?

Troop 93 is a textbook or model Scout Troop. It has 40 Scouts, a Scoutmaster that was selected as the Eno District 2021 Scoutmaster of the Year, 15 very engaged and dedicated Assistant Scoutmasters, a Scout lead program, a major activity each month and an emphasis on fun, family, skills and values. Keeping the agenda full of activities, support and caring are key to it’s success. Scouts in Chatham County is good and active. But we must be prepared to reach out to the community with the Scouting story.

You recently had four young men who’d been in scouting together for years and years and they earned their Eagle Scout designation together. You’re also an Eagle Scout. How significant an accomplishment is that?

It’s what being an Eagle Scout means is — it’s significant. You have proven yourself to be a head above the average, and your commitment in your path to Eagle demonstrates you are one to emulate and follow and not the one doing the following. You are the head of the pack.

The 75th anniversary of Troop 93 will be observed on Oct. 22. Tell us what’s lined up for that day.

All activites will take place at our Harold Boone Scout Hut, located at 1020 U.S. 64 West in Pittsboro.

Here’s the schedule:

• 11:30 a.m.: Eagle Scouts check-in

• 12 p.m.: Eagle Scout Luncheon to honor our 80 Eagle Scouts.

• 1:30 p.m.: Guest Check-in

• 2 to 5 p.m.: Visit Scout Hut memorabilia display, Troop 93 Scouting Village

• 6 p.m.: Dinner celebrating 75 years, awards, speaker and opening of our 50th anniversary time capsule

• 7:30 p.m.: Scout Camp Fire led by Scouts from Troop 93, along with a flag retirement, sing-along, 100th time capsule, Scout skits and thank yous.

How can folks get involved, and why should they attend?

Go to the 75th Anniversary Celebration web site at: Troop93.classquest.com. You should attend to remember, you should attend to celebrate 75 years and more than 1,100 Scouts and 80 Eagle Scouts. You should attend to show your support for another 75 years and you should attend to learn that Scouting is not dead in Chatham County, but very much alive.

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